A new generation of socialists may be upon us
According to a new report from the Institute for Economic Affairs, 67% of young Britons (16-to-34-year-olds) “would like to live in a socialist economic system.”
Being a free market think tank, the IEA presents this as cause for alarm. Certainly, it helps to explain why younger voters now lean so heavily towards Labour and the other Left-wing parties.
But how do we reconcile these facts with a Redfield and Wilton poll, also out this week, which shows that younger people are much more in favour of cutting taxes than those aged 35 plus? Remarkably, support for lower taxation is twice as high among 18-to-24-year-olds than it is among Conservative voters.
Moreover, when asked to choose between tax increases and spending cuts to balance the country’s finances, most younger voters opt for the latter.
This is not what one would expect from a bunch of socialists.
So do these findings contradict the IEA report? No — because the IEA polling also finds some perplexing views on taxation. While there was support among younger people for paying more tax in order to better fund public services and benefits, an even higher proportion of the same age group agreed with the statement: “I would prefer to pay less tax, because I don’t trust the government to spend my taxes wisely.”
So how does one resolve the paradox of the anti-tax young socialists? A facile explanation is that young people don’t know what they’re talking about. In particular, one might suspect they don’t understand that ‘free stuff’ always has to be paid for by someone.
However, there’s a less patronising explanation, which is that the disconnect between receiving services from the state and paying for them runs in precisely the opposite direction.
Once in work, young people are all too familiar with the concept of paying tax — because they can see the deductions on their payslips. What is less visible to them is what they get in return.
Compared to older people, the young are less likely to use the NHS and they are many decades away from receiving their pensions. Furthermore, unlike their parents’ generation at the same age, they’re more likely to be paying for higher education and less likely to be living on welfare.
They’re also seeing precious little action from the government to tackle priority concerns like the cost of housing.
Therefore, we need to ask what younger voters really want: actual socialism or just a better deal?